What has been made remarkably clear through the long campaign and especially through the three presidential debates is that Donald Trump has little to no knowledge concerning policy issues. Trump has a paper thin understanding of what appeals to a conservative audience and he tailored his campaign around those very narrow concerns. However, if examined in depth, then his policy positions can be shown to be hollow and illogical. Trump has discussed what his foreign policy would be like in a Trump administration. He seems to be advocating for a rapprochement with Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation. He wants to crater the Iran Nuclear deal. He also advocated for nuclear proliferation for allies like Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea so they could protect themselves. He also argued that because our NATO allies do not “pay their fair share” that we should rethink our participation in the NATO alliance. He also has said that he wondered why the United States does not contemplate using nuclear weapons on the battlefield. I am arguing that any one of these positions is unprecedented and dangerous but taken together these positions make Trump totally unqualified to be Commander in Chief. This is coming from a student of history who has studied, in depth, American foreign policy.
While even a rival like the Russians, should be dealt with diplomatically and the US should work with Russia on issues like climate change where common ground can be found, the United States must be willing to challenge Russia in alliance with other nations when they violate international norms. Trump seems to want to reestablish a rapport with Russia in order to fight ISIS in Syria; however Russia is only interested in shoring up its chief ally, Bashar al-Assad, not fighting ISIS.[i] At certain points, Trump seemed to be unaware that Russia had invaded the Ukraine.[ii] At other times, Trump seemed resigned to the fact that Ukraine was Russia’s concern and not a concern for the US.[iii] Trump’s policy toward Russia needs to be placed within the context of the hacks of the Hillary Clinton campaign and her surrogates and supporters carried out by Russian state-sponsored hackers, as acknowledged by 17 American intelligence organizations.[iv] Trump refuses to acknowledge this fact.[v] Trump has also praised Putin and other dictators such as Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jung Un claiming they are better or stronger leaders than President Obama because their approval ratings and popular vote totals are higher; because, according to the Trump campaign, the polls in a dictatorship controlled by the one-party state are to be trusted.[vi] Trump’s second campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has ties directly to Viktor Yanukovych, a former leader of Ukraine who was a puppet of Vladimir Putin, who Manafort served as a political consultant.[vii] Donald Trump’s business connections span the globe and there are indications that he is tied to Russian oligarchs with direct ties to Putin; though we do not know for sure because Trump refuses to release his tax returns.[viii] Trump’s threat to dismantle NATO is our allies fail to pay their fair share, plays directly into the hands of Putin who would do anything to undermine the NATO alliance which has kept Russia in check since the Cold War.[ix] Trump has also indicated that the US under a Trump regime would not intervene if Russia invaded other nations such as Estonia or Latvia; that Trump would allow Russia to run roughshod throughout the world.[x]
Trump has argued that the Iran Nuclear deal is a bad deal and he would like to renegotiate or get rid of it.[xi] The Iran Nuclear deal put a halt on the development of the Iran nuclear program for at least a decade and established a rigorous enforcement regime in order to verify that Iran is in compliance with the treaty. In exchange, the United States lifted the crippling economic sanctions imposed after the Iran hostage Crisis. Any backing out or attempted renegotiations would crater the deal and deliver to the fundamentalist leader Ali Khamenei a victory confirming that the US will not live up to its agreements and the moderate forces in the country will lose out.[xii] It would also lead to the restart of the Iran nuclear program totally unsupervised by the international community.
Trump argues that our allies should protect themselves through obtaining nuclear weapons; presumably from the United States.[xiii] Trump’s argument for nuclear proliferation even for our allies is a stupid idea.[xiv] One, if Saudi Arabia or Japan were to get weapons it would spur their neighbors, who may not be allied to the US, to try to start a nuclear program or to buy nuclear weapons from other nations. Two, if those nations got nuclear weapons it increases the chances that an unstable regime would use those weapons in international disputes. Third, it increases the chances that a terrorist organization could acquire those weapons for their own purposes. Finally, this new policy would undermine work done by the United States to eliminate nuclear weapons in the former satellite states of the Soviet Union and throughout the world.[xv]
Trump also argues that many of our allies are wealthy and that they do not pay their fair share within the context of the NATO alliance and he implied that he would stop participating in NATO if our allies refused to pay up.[xvi] This threat by Donald Trump undermined the NATO alliance which has been in place since the Cold War and has been a check on Russian power since 1949. Trump even implied that if Estonia or Latvia were invaded by Russia he would only come to their aid if they were paid up.[xvii] This caused Vice President Biden to reassure our allies that the United States always honors its commitments; though if Trump becomes President who knows if that will hold true.[xviii] This is the greatest military alliance in the world and assures the safety and security of the United States and our allies.
Trump also pondered why the United States did not put on the table the idea of using nuclear weapons on the battlefield. Talking with Chris Matthews, Donald Trump said that he would never take using nuclear weapons “off the table” anywhere, including Europe.[xix] What is so dangerous about this is that there is no check on launching nuclear weapons once the Commander-in-Chief makes his or her decision; there is only a four minute delay between when the President makes the call and the nuclear launch officers must follow through. These officers are not allowed to use their own judgement and they must follow their orders; to disobey even if they feel it is the right thing to do, is committing treason.[xx] On Syria, Trump made the strange assertion, “I know more than the generals” about Syria and ISIS.[xxi] He also claims he has a secret plan to defeat ISIS which he refuses to share with anyone;[xxii] this is also a tactic that Nixon utilized (during the ’68 election in which he undermined the peace talks then going on between the Johnson administration, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam), Nixon did not actually have a secret plan, nor does Trump.[xxiii] Trump also says that he would fire the top generals and appoint new ones despite that not being how the military functions.[xxiv]
Donald Trump has also talked about starting a trade war with China. According to experts, his trade war with China and imposition of high tariffs on products from China, Mexico, and other nations that corporations have outsourced labor to could result in retaliatory tariffs on American exports to other nations, which they have concluded would cost millions of Americans their jobs.[xxv] He also claims that if he wins this trade war with China he can achieve rates of growth over 5 percent, but experts have concluded that high growth rates are characterized by developing economies like China and India and that fully developed economies like the US and Western Europe rarely experience such high growth rates.[xxvi] And, in his own business practices he has produced his own products in factories in other nations.[xxvii] He also utilized cheaper Chinese steel in his iconic buildings instead of using American companies and steel which would have kept American steel workers employed in such states as Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.[xxviii] Because he has never released his tax returns, the American people are ignorant of his potential financial ties to foreign interests including in China.[xxix] In Conclusion, Trump’s disastrous policies related to nuclear weapons, his undermining of our chief allies, and his bolstering of our rivals and enemies, makes him fundamentally unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.
[i] http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/04/politics/russia-ships-anti-missile-system-in-syria/; http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/10/04/russia-deploys-advanced-anti-missile-system-to-syria-for-first-time-us-officials-say.html; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/09/11/why-russia-is-in-syria/; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/09/11/why-russia-is-in-syria/; http://time.com/4054941/putin-russia-syria/.
[iv] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/22/business/russian-suspected-of-hacking-us-tech-companies-is-indicted.html; http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/russians-hacked-two-u-s-voter-databases-say-officials-n639551; https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-government-officially-accuses-russia-of-hacking-campaign-to-influence-elections/2016/10/07/4e0b9654-8cbf-11e6-875e-2c1bfe943b66_story.html; http://www.newsweek.com/2015/05/15/russias-greatest-weapon-may-be-its-hackers-328864.html.
[v] http://www.vox.com/world/2016/10/20/13346242/trump-russia-hacking-third-debate; http://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/trump-debate-russia-hacking-228737; http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/trump-again-says-u-s-doesn-t-know-if-russia-n670186.
[vi] http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/controversial-dictators-leaders-donald-trump-praised/story?id=40373481; http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/donald-trump-s-history-praising-dictators-n604801; http://people.com/celebrity/donald-trump-praises-saddam-hussein-and-more-dictators/; http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/101/video/trump-in-praise-of-dictators-719711811882.
[vii] http://www.salon.com/2016/10/24/donald-trumps-former-campaign-chairman-paul-manafort-was-lobbying-vladimir-putin-through-a-company-he-owned/; http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/01/us/paul-manafort-ukraine-donald-trump.html; http://www.politifact.com/global-news/article/2016/may/02/paul-manafort-donald-trumps-top-adviser-and-his-ti/; http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/15/us/politics/paul-manafort-ukraine-donald-trump.html; http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/the-manafort-dossier/495851/.
[viii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2016/09/26/clinton-claims-trump-tax-returns-reveal-russian-ties/#4624d89d1dea; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/07/26/inside-the-5-theories-for-why-donald-trump-isnt-releasing-his-tax-returns/; http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/09/13/trumps_tax_returns_could_offer_key_answers_to_russia_questions_131767.html.
[ix] http://www.vox.com/2016/7/21/12247074/donald-trump-nato-war; http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/07/russia-nato-trump-shirreff/492938/; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-21/trump-says-u-s-may-not-defend-nato-allies-against-russia-attack-iqvw8gki.
[xi] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/ap-fact-check-donald-trump-iran-nuclear-deal/; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/07/11/heres-what-could-happen-if-a-president-trump-tore-up-the-iran-nuclear-deal/.
[xii] http://www.newsweek.com/iran-supreme-leader-takes-aim-trump-pledge-burn-nuclear-deal-470628; https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2016/02/16/what-the-nuclear-deal-means-for-moderates-in-iranian-politics/.
[xvi] http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/whats-trumps-position-on-nato/; http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/21/us/politics/donald-trump-issues.html; http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/07/nato-trump-russia/493001/; http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/trump-nato-new-york-times-225942; http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/donald-trump-nato-reaction-225967.
[xvii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/07/21/donald-trump-cast-doubt-on-the-baltics-involvement-in-nato-heres-what-they-actually-do/; http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/22/world/europe/donald-trump-nato-baltics-interpreter.html; http://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/07/trump-nato/492341/.
[xix] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/28/us/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-nuclear-policy-cyber.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=2855A6B1DEAE9E16E8D5106D20587AD1&gwt=pay; http://time.com/4437089/donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-nukes/; http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-internment-president/2016/09/23/id/749830/; http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/03/trump-asks-why-us-cant-use-nukes-msnbcs-joe-scarborough-reports.html;
[xx] http://www.nbcnews.com/card/former-nuke-launch-officers-trump-should-not-have-his-finger-n666106; http://time.com/4531271/nuclear-launch-officers-open-letter-donald-trump/; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nuclear-launch-trump_us_57fffb55e4b0162c043b0980; http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/12/opinion/trump-and-the-nuclear-keys.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=9111CD51FFDA238DB67263CBAD5B6EFC&gwt=pay&assetType=opinion; http://www.businessinsider.com/nuclear-officers-dont-trust-donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-2016-10.
[xxi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-Mjy9ETtRY; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q26ikbTlQn0; https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2016/09/14/trump-and-the-generals/ http://www.stripes.com/news/former-admirals-and-generals-warn-trump-is-dangerous-to-military-and-country-1.430242; http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/10/donald-trump-and-the-generals/503558/.
[xxv] http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/why-donald-trump-is-wrong-about-manufacturing-jobs-and-china; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/09/19/the-effect-of-trumps-trade-policies-trade-wars-with-china-mexico-that-could-cost-u-s-4-million-jobs-report-says/; http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2016/08/24/Here-s-Proof-Trump-s-Trade-War-China-Could-Be-Disaster; http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/07/25/donald-trump-trade-policies-china-mexico/87521852/;
[xxvi] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/21/donald-trump-says-india-and-china-are-beating-the-u-s-its-not-that-simple/; http://thefederalist.com/2016/01/20/almost-everything-donald-trump-says-about-trade-with-china-is-wrong/.